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Community Programs

Hintonburg Community Association, Community Program

The Security Committee of the Hintonburg Community Association is made up of dedicated volunteers from the Hintonburg community, who work together with city councillors and staff, local police, and other community members to reduce crime in their neighbourhood and across the City of Ottawa. One of the Security Committee’s most notable contributions is its involvement in the creation of the Ottawa John School, a program aimed at reducing street- level sex trade by stopping men’s solicitation of sex trader workers.

The pilot project, launched in the Hintonburg neighbourhood, saw men charged for solicitation, but if they had no previous record and took responsibility for their actions they were offered a pre-charge diversion to attend the John School instead of going to court. If they completed the program, the charges against them would be dropped.

Giving these men the option to avoid a criminal record and to learn something about their actions was an innovative approach. It forced men to acknowledge the consequences of their actions on this community, the potential health risks they faced and the laws they were breaking. It also taught them about the reality of why prostitutes are on the street - often due to drug addiction.

Following a three-month pilot and an extensive evaluation from law enforcement, the project was deemed successful. It was taken city-wide in 1997, and since then at least 1200 men have gone through the school and a very few have re-offended. The sex trade in the Hintonburg neighbourhood has also decreased significantly.

A neighbourhood needle pick-up program is another successful Security Committee initiative. In the late 1990s the issue of discarded needles was growing. Volunteers from the Security Committee would scour parks and playgrounds early in the morning to collect the sometimes thousands of discarded needles before children arrived. In 2000, responding to pressure from the Committee, the City of Ottawa began funding a pro-active needle pick-up program, making parks, school yards and public spaces safer for everyone.

Other successful initiatives include the long-running Task Force on Problem Properties, a partnership started in 1995 that works to highlight properties, most often drug houses, to the city and police who then work together to find ways to deal with them. Through the Hintonburg Safety Partnership gaps in legislation that allowed these problem properties to exist for years were examined. The Security Committee has also lobbied for supports to help people with addiction issues.

The Security Committee also runs the One House at a Time Program, working with property owners and often supporting them to evict bad or criminal tenants. The committee organized a number of community walks to draw attention to problems and to demonstrate the community’s willingness to take action. Because the existence of drug houses brings the sex trade and many other crimes, the fight to rid neighbourhoods of this root cause of crime has been a foundation for the Committee’s crime prevention efforts.

Lepage Manor Neighbourhood Watch, Community Program

The Lepage Manor, an Ottawa Community Housing building in the city’s west end, has struggled with its share of illicit activity. Seniors and other vulnerable residents felt threatened by drug dealers and unwanted visitors tied to the sex trade. For years, it was perceived as an unsafe place, and that fact alone seemed to attract even more crime. Although many concerned tenants were aware of what was going on, very few were notifying Safety Services, the building’s internal safety and security team.

In 2008, the Lepage Manor Neighbourhood Watch program was established to address these problems. The goal? To enhance safety and inspire people to become crime prevention champions. This initiative is especially unique, because it was formed in collaboration with the wider community around Lepage Manor. It’s the first partnership of its kind in Ottawa.

With the full support of Ottawa Community Housing and Councillor Maria McRae, the program has enhanced community safety over the past two years. Perhaps most notably, it has opened the lines of communication to safety services, police and other authorities, as well as educating the wider community about security issues.

The result has been a dramatic 50% increase in calls to safety services, and a 200% jump in calls about trespassing. Empowered with information, the safety services team was able to send more patrols and issue more trespass notices–conveying a consistent message to unwanted elements that Lepage Manor is a community that does not welcome illicit activity.

The Neighbourhood Watch program also worked to bring property management and safety issues to the fore, resulting in changes that have improved the building and the landscape around it.

To understand the real impact of this program, just look at the people involved. They spend hours each day and night walking the halls of their building. They help frightened seniors report threatening activity. They work with their neighbours on the street to keep an eye on problems. They’re also helping other local communities set up their own Neighbourhood Watch programs. We’re talking committed, dedicated volunteers. They believe in what they’re doing. The positive results are a point of pride—for them, and for the wider community.

Why do they do it? As the head of the program, Jerry Pool, will tell you, they’re proud of their community and the building they live in. And giving back is the greatest reward.

United Neighbours, Community Program

In 2007, a concerned and committed group of residents from Ottawa’s west end approached the Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre to discuss rising crime in the area and to partner with the organization to do something about these challenges. The centre helped the residents apply for funding through Crime Prevention Ottawa and the United Neighbours project was born.

In just two years, United Neighbours has transformed the neighbourhood. More than 50 community members, including community leaders, faith leaders, service providers, private renters, homeowners, tenants associations, law enforcement officers and local business owners have contributed to the efforts of collectively finding solutions and improving the quality of life in Ottawa’s west end. The work has included door-to-door campaigns, public speaking engagements, and the development of a website through which the community keeps up to date on upcoming events and police news.

In the spring of 2008, United Neighbours carried out a survey in four languages – Arabic, French, Somali and English – which received more than 800 responses from adults and youth in the community. Following the survey, a community forum was also organized in an effort to encourage neighbours to work together towards a common goal of a safer neighbourhood. As a result of both of these initiatives, four working groups have been developed in the areas of:

  • Environment and Beautification
  • Community safety
  • A programs and services inventory
  • Drug and alcohol prevention and intervention

Each working group meets once a month to discuss issues, projects and new initiatives, with a common vision to combat fear and misperceptions about youth violence, racism, and immigrant populations. Each of the working groups has planned, implemented and evaluated a number of projects in the community, including:

  • A community forum, which highlighted the need for a holistic community approach to drugs, alcohol and mental health issues, with a particular focus on youth and early prevention;
  • Community clean-up days and the creation of a park in one of the social housing neighbourhoods; and,
  • Crime Prevention Coffee Houses, which offer a safe space for all community members to come together to discuss issues that concern them and to find solutions together in order to increase safety in their neighbourhoods.

The four working groups continue to build momentum, awareness, relationships and healthy neighbourhood cohesion by planning and implementing a variety of initiatives that are relevant to community members. A new initiative for youth, based on the successful Coffee Houses, involves creating Smoothie Stands specifically for youth to come together and talk about issues relevant to them.

United Neighbours is an example of a community-based action plan that works to educate and mobilize the community on crime and safety issues. The group has grown into a vital support network for Ottawa’s west end, providing a foundation for a healthier and more cohesive community, and a much safer one. It is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Lowertown, Our Home, Community Program

Lowertown, Our Home is a project aimed at improving quality of life, and the safety and security of residents in Lowertown. Managed by the Lowertown Community Resource Centre, with the input of 13 community partners, the project offers a true testament to the value of “strength in numbers” in at-risk neighbourhoods.  

The dedicated partners behind Lowertown, Our Home include local residents, Councilor Georges Bédard, Ottawa Community Housing, the police, social agencies and other service providers. Funding is provided by Crime Prevention Ottawa. Everyone involved shares a conviction that communities are empowered when they work collectively to share knowledge and find solutions to build healthier, safer neighbourhoods.

Lowertown faces its own unique challenges. Many believe the neighbourhood is rife with crime and drug addiction, and low on resources to deal with the problems it faces. The population is diverse and varied, ranging from low-income housing residents to young families, diverse cultures, professionals and the homeless.

Lowertown, Our Home acts as a unifying force, bringing these groups together. The Residents’ Committee, which counts approximately 40 members, develops and implements community initiatives. The goal? To give people the power to take charge of their neighbourhood and take back their parks and other public spaces. It’s a philosophy that has served this community well over time.

Today, Lowertown is a vibrant place, where residents feel pride in their neighbourhood. Barriers are breaking down. Many are no longer strangers.

Lowertown, Our Home’s program coordinator evaluates the neighbourhood’s issues and plans activities such as community events, youth leadership initiatives, neighbourhood walkabouts, community clean-ups and bar-b-cues. Information sessions on working with the police, reporting crimes, community safety, parenting, drugs and racism are critical to keeping the community informed and safe.

If there’s one message that Lowertown, Our Home has managed to communicate, it’s that “the community belongs to all of us.” The program is creating links and building pride, one person at a time, one day at a time.

As for the future? Lowertown, Our Home hopes to secure funding to continue outreach to residents, bring about greater change, and make a lasting impact over the long-term.

The Men’s Project, Community Program

The Men’s Project is an innovative counselling service for men, providing high-quality mental health services in the areas of childhood trauma recovery, recent sexual assault, emotional integrity, anger management and fathering.

A core value of this unique program is that all aspects of its intervention and education services promote crime prevention as they work to stop the cycle of violence from repeating. Their motto: Better men, healthier families, speaks totheir work of creating stronger, safer communities through providing services to victimized men.

Since its inception in 1997, the Men’s Project has provided men in Ottawa with pioneering and widely-recognized programming, and now works with 250 to 300 men annually. The four main programs offered by The Men’s Project are:

  • The Men & Healing program for men who have suffered childhood sexual abuse. This program works on the central philosophy of trauma recovery that helping heal men who have been victims of crime also helps them to become better fathers and better partners – thus reducing the potential risk of further violence in these men’s lives;
  • The Anger Management program which works with men to deal with anger or rage, before and after their behaviour becomes inappropriate. The Men’s Project gives these men a place to learn and change in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. The Anger Management program is of value to families and to employers, who often have a need to promote behavioural changes.
  • The Fathering Program, with its unique focus on building secure attachments between fathers and children. This program, which works on the premise that “all fathers are sons”, encourages men to recognize and understand the influence of their fathers in the way they parent and to find ways to benefit from these lessons and form stronger attachments with their own children; and,
  • The Emotional Intelligence program which encourages men not only to be honest with themselves and take responsibility for their actions, but also to learn how to become closer to the people who are important in their lives. This initiative helps break down the rigid confines that define masculinity and promote male detachment, and allows men to accept their emotional selves.

The Men’s Project also offers Training Services that focus on victim treatment and intervention with offenders, and has become the provincial source for this training. In 2008, the organization hosted Men of Courage, Ontario’s first conference on male sexual victimization.

The Men’s Project is currently involved in two research projects with the University of Ottawa – a demographic study on the men who use victims’ services and an outcomes study which will measure the changes in men who participate in programming.

Through both programming and research, The Men’s Project improves the lives of men who have been affected by violence through support, counselling and services to help them heal. This in turn improves the safety of our communities by working to break the cycle of violence.